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24 Returns: Everything You Need to Know Before Jack Bauer’s Comeback

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Like time itself, 24 rolls on: the countdown-centric show that went off the air four years ago after eight “days” of Jack Bauer thrills will return to TV as 24: Live Another Day, a 12-episode reincarnation of the franchise. My colleague James Poniewozik has a full review of the new show and its “familiar twists and backstabbing.”

It makes sense that that familiarity was keenly felt by the show’s creators: “It was strangely as if the show had never ended for us,” says Manny Coto, who served as a co-creator/writer/producer for both runs of the show. “When we came back into the room to start talking about the new season, it was really as if we had picked up from where we had left off. There was no strange awkwardness.”

But, since the last episode aired in 2010, viewers may not have such strong memories — so here’s everything you need to know to jump right in with 24: Live Another Day.

Wait, how is this season called 24 but only 12 episodes long? It still covers the full day, but without any filler. Coto and his fellow creator/writer/producer Evan Katz say that losing half the time to tell the story hasn’t really affected the feel of the show.

What happened last we saw these characters? At the conclusion of day/season eight, Chloe promised to help Jack’s family stay safe and he thanked her for her help, before wishing him luck as he went off into exile to avoid pursuit by Russian and American forces.

What’s happened to them between then and now? The show picks up four years after the last one ended, with mostly new characters. Here are the exceptions, with minimally spoiler-y explanations from Coto and Katz:

Jack Bauer: Kiefer Sutherland’s character has been a fugitive for the intervening years. “Jack Bauer has been a fugitive. It helped with the new characters in the show, for whom Jack has become a dark legend, and it helped for Jack because we were really able to change his character and his perspective,” says Coto. “Jack was sent into exile at the end of Season 8 and there’s no reason to think he’s anywhere but in exile. He’s in London,” adds Katz.

Chloe O’Brian: As for Mary Lynn Rajskub’s character, Coto and Katz won’t give away much. “Chloe O’Brian let [Jack] go so I think it’s reasonable to assume she paid a price for that,” says Katz. She “comes back in a markedly different way,” hints Coto.

Audrey Raines: Kim Raver’s character was last seen all the way back in 24‘s Season 6. “The last time we saw her, she was in pretty bad shape because of being exposed to Jack’s world,” says Katz. “When we find her now, she has managed to rebuild herself and come back and kind of forgotten Jack. It’s been four years. Everybody’s assumed he’s gone. His appearance makes a huge impact in her life and in the life of her husband, who’s taken it upon himself to nurse her from her state of basically catatonia. Now Jack’s appearance threatens this marriage, and has ramifications for her father as well, who is [now] the President.”

Sutherland, Rajskub and Raver will be joined by actors new to the show, including Benjamin Bratt and Tate Donovan. The series kicks off May 5 on Fox.

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Write to Lily Rothman at lily.rothman@time.com